#33 | Breastfeeding Mini: Out With The Rules, In With Your Instincts

June 29, 2020

In this "Mini-sode Monday" episode,  Trisha shares the first and most important rule of breastfeeding--there are no rules!  In this short episode, she explains how breastfeeding is a right-brained activity and doesn't require logic, thinking, and planning to be successful. In fact, those left-brained functions can be just the thing that interferes with the natural flow and process of establishing an easy, long lasting breastfeeding relationship with your baby. 

* * * * * * * * * *

If you enjoyed this episode of the Down To Birth Show, please share with your pregnant and postpartum friends.

Between episodes, connect with us on Instagram @DownToBirthShow to see behind-the-scenes production clips and join the conversation by responding to our questions and polls related to pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood. You can reach us at Contact@DownToBirthShow.com or call (802) 438-3696 (802-GET-DOWN). We are always happy to hear from our listeners and appreciate questions for our monthly Q&A episodes. To join our monthly newsletter, text "downtobirth" to 22828.

You can sign up for Cynthia's HypnoBirthing classes as well as online breastfeeding classes and weekly postpartum support groups run by Cynthia & Trisha at HypnoBirthing of Connecticut

Please remember we don’t provide medical advice, and to speak with your licensed medical provider related to all your healthcare matters. Thanks so much for joining in the conversation, and see you next week!

View Episode Transcript

Hey everyone, it's Trisha. this mini-sode is on one of my favorite topics: Breastfeeding. It's not going to be long; I just want to share with you a story of a woman who contacted me me the other day to ask me some questions about breastfeeding. Her baby isn't due for another month or so, but she was really worried about how to best-prepare to learn how to breastfeed. We talked for about ten minutes and she was sort of furiously taking notes during our conversation.

And I realized when I got off the phone how much mothers worry about whether they're going to be able to breastfeed, and what they're going to be able to do to get it right, and what if it goes wrong, and truly wanting to make sure they are absolutely doing everything they can to make sure they get off to a good start. And in the last minute of the conversation I said to her, the most important thing you can take away from this conversation is that the number one rule in breastfeeding is that there are no rules.

In all honestly from having children of my own to counseling hundreds of women through breastfeeding difficulties, the more we can let go of sticking to some sort of strict criteria and expectations for how breastfeeding should go, the better chance they have at successfully have a long-term, natural, good-feeling breastfeeding relationship with their baby.

So when I was getting trained as a lactation consultant, I was very lucky to learn from one of the most renowned people in the field of lactation, Dr. Christina Smilie, and one of the first things she taught us was about the right-brained, mother-baby dance of breastfeeding. And i always like to explain this to mothers, because breastfeeding is a relationship. It's not a skill you have to master, it's an evolving partnership between you and your baby. It's much less intellectual than we like to make it. So the right brain is the side of our brain that is more creative and free-flowing, the side of our brain that can tap into music and dance, whereas the left brain is the logical side, the analytical side, the planning and organizing part of our brain. And that's exactly where we don't want to be when we are thinking about breastfeeding. We want to be in that creative, free-flowing, right-brain side  of ourselves. Really if you think about it, if breastfeeding were an intellectual activity, we should have the highest rates and best rates of breastfeeding of anywhere in the world. We have more access to knowledge and information and text books and research here in the United States than anywhere else, but we have exactly the opposite in terms of breastfeeding success rates. So we want to go back to that right side of our brains. The part that's sensitive and intuitive and emotional, and the part that's able to tune into the little cues that our babies give us. And the part of us that understands that each and every one of our babies have different needs, and that our bodies are different, and a one-size-fits-all approach does not work for all mother-baby couples. And honestly the last thing we want to give new mothers is a list that's a mile long of rights and wrongs to do around breastfeeding. So if you can start to shift your mindset from thinking that breastfeeding is a skill you need to practice and master, and think of it more as building a relationship and partnership with your baby that will evolve slowly over time, based on your needs and the baby's needs, you'll certainly get off to an easier start.

That's not to say there isn't a time and place for left-brain thinking in breastfeeding. Certainly when things are complicated or you need to keep track for good reason of certain variables around your babies, there is a place for the left-brain. But the point is, there are certain things we learn in life, for example riding a bike. We don't learn to ride a bike by studying a manual or watching an educational video on it. We get on it, we try, we fall, we get up again, we try, we get better and before long we're riding a bike smoothly and comfortably. And breastfeeding  really is the same thing; it's not perfect the first time we do it. It might not even be perfect the first thirty times we do it. But each time we do it, we learn a little bit more about ourselves and about our baby.  And each time we make these little intuitive adjustments and it gets better, and we learn the awkward dance of breastfeeding. If you think about the first time you go out on a dance floor with a stranger - which your baby basically is to you - you wouldn't be able to just step out there and be in perfect synchronicity without knowing each other and knowing the music. You'd step on each other's toes a little bit; you'd feel awkward, you'd feel uncomfortable, but as time went on, you would hear the rhythm, you'd tune into each other's body rhythm, and you'd find the flow. And the same thing happens with breastfeeding.

And I know this probably leaves you feeling like, yeah well that all sounds really great but  what do I really need to do to get started breastfeeding with my baby. And I'm going to tell you the first thing I say is forget the rules, be with your baby, skin to skin as much as possible, and any opportunity they give you to feed them, feed the baby. So any awake, alert state is an opportunity to feed. Interpret every sign as a hunger cue and feed your baby. Feeding your baby from a place of calm and quiet alertness is the best way. It can be very difficult to feed a newborn baby who's in a state of crying and upset. While later in a breastfeeding relationship, the breast can be used as a place to calm down a crying baby, it isn't the best way to teach a new baby. So skin to skin time frequently is the best way to assure you have a quiet and content baby, second you want to let your baby lead the way, which means rather than wrapping up your baby very tightly in a swaddle and creating sort of a very propped-up, artificial feeding environment, just allow your baby to seek out your breast. You can of course help them to latch on for the first time or the tenth time or whatever time, but for the most part let your baby follow their instincts to find their way to the nipple.

If you enjoy our podcast please take a moment to leave us a review on Apple podcasts and share a favorite episode or two. You can follow us on Instagram and Twitter @downtobirthshow or contact us and review show notes at downtobirthshow.com. Please remember this information is made available to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is in no way a substitute for medical advice. For our full disclaimer visit downtobirthshow.com/disclaimer. Thanks for tuning in, and  as always, hear everyone and listen to yourself.

If you enjoyed this podcast episode of the Down To Birth Show, please share with your pregnant and postpartum friends.

Share this episode: 

Between episodes, connect with us on Instagram @DownToBirthShow to see behind-the-scenes production clips and join the conversation by responding to our questions and polls related to pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood.

You can reach us at Contact@DownToBirthShow.com or call (802) 438-3696 (802-GET-DOWN). 

To join our monthly newsletter, text “downtobirth” to 22828.

About Cynthia Overgard

Cynthia is a published writer, advocate, childbirth educator and postpartum support specialist in prenatal/postpartum healthcare and has served thousands of clients since 2007. 

About Trisha Ludwig

Trisha is a Yale-educated Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Counselor. She has worked in women's health for more than 15 years.

Want to be on the show?

We'd love to hear your story. 
Please fill out the form if you are interested in being on the show.

screen linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram